Anna Nathanson caught up with the talented Ty to have a chat about his great new album 'Closer', being the hiphop version of Coldplay, money in the UK scene and balance in hiphop music.
How do you feel you've developed over the years?
I feel I've become more comfortable with myself as an artist. I used to be at odds with trying to tell people I was different and I think now people have had a chance to see that for themselves, with my performances; they can see first hand what I'm about. I've also stopped trying to compete with UK hiphop expectations.
You have a lyric on your new album that says you're the hiphop version of Coldplay. What exactly do you mean by this?
I feel that in this country, if hiphop was properly respected and not downgraded to the street artform that it is, if it was looked upon as a coherent piece of genius from the UK shores, then I would be looked upon as being as good as they are, in my field.
Do you feel that you don't get the recognition that you rightly deserve?
People are always lumping me in with a whole bunch of artists, but I never get lumped in with artists who are actually similar to what I'm doing, who express the same type of openness that I'm expressing. Regardless of what I do and the type of music that I make, I'm always lumped together with Sway, Skinnyman but we're all different. I think that this is a subliminal way of not showing respect for the fact that we're UK exports. Simple.
What's the most important realisation you've come to about the music scene?
One thing I've realised about hiphop music in the UK is that people often ask the question "why hasn't it taken off?" They never ask the right questions. What we need to be asking is "why hasn't it been allowed to take off?"
Why do you think this is?
Hiphop in the UK doesn't have the same parameters to blow up that it does in America. Hiphop is one of the most popular youth movements. Why hasn't the UK got a television show on terrestrial TV with a hiphop chart? Why do all rappers find it hard to be on normal television in the UK? Why are we not on the news? I don't mean for gun killings, but performing on the news or on chat shows such as Jonathon Ross or GMTV. These are the things that people need to start asking themselves. Why are we not play listed on Radio 1? I'm not playlisted on there. My record at the moment isn't. I can show you a text now that shows the read outs of my radio pluggers report with regards to what stations are saying.
What are they saying?
Well, they don't think my record has any place in their chart. That's what Radio 1 is saying. 1Xtra's supported from day one, but it needs to trickle over, but what's happening is that it only goes so far. How can Radio 1 turn around and say, "this has got absolutely nothing to do with us" when their sister station has playlisted my song?
So what would your response be to the notion that UK hiphop isn't commercially viable?
That's bollocks. It's not that it can't sell; it's just that our country doesn't want it to sell. Our country's not interested in this music being celebrated equally like other Indie music. I didn't really notice this until I started going abroad. That's when I understood it fully. I have a strong following in America, France, Germany, Switzerland. People there know what I'm doing and they get it. In this country, there are TV and radio programmes that I can't even get on, whereas in France, I've been on a morning show. In the UK, that level of exposure will only ever happen for you if you belong to a certain company, or a major label. That's the problem we have here. Everything's tied up with money.
It's often said that there's not much money in black music in this country. What's your take on this and why do you think that?
The industry over here has been stopped from becoming an economy. I went to Nigeria a few months ago and they flew me out there with my mum to attend the hiphop awards show they have over there. I've never seen anything like it! I've never seen that amount of money spent in the UK as they did on that awards show in Nigeria.
You hold a lot of opinions on the hiphop game. Is there anything else that pisses you off about the scene?
I think there is a lack of balance. What's missing is the balance between comedic hiphop, straight hiphop, serious hiphop. You need a lot of different elements, and they did used to exist. We used to have acts like Naughty By Nature, Snoop, A Tribe Called Quest as well as NWA. You had that all going on.
Why do you think that changed?
Now mainstream hiphop is really controlled by major corporations who don't have any interest in actually pushing the music. Sometimes I think they'd rather create a situation that's negative. They don't want to do good things for hiphop. They just want to make money from it. So, that's the situation we have now with the music. The music isn't actually governed or controlled or supported by us, the actual people involved in hiphop. We can't tell you when to put us on TV. We can't do anything like that, and because of that, the scene's left lagging behind.